BREAKING: Akiyuki Nosaka, author of Grave of the Fireflies, passes away at the age of 85: Nosaka was best known for that quasi-autobiographical novel (whose success apparently intimidated him), and which later formed the basis for the heartbreaking Studio Ghibli film. But he wrote a great deal else, too — including the riotous comic novel The Pornographers, adapted by the great Japanese director Shohei Imamura into an equally biting and acerbic movie. He shall be missed.
Another loss: Takamasa Sakurai, producer and anime-culture spokesperson, died at the age of 49 last week in an apparent accident after falling off a train platform. Deeply saddening news. I interviewed Sakurai a few years back at Otakon; he was tack-sharp, and had a no-bull attitude that I respected immensely.
Gimme some of that O-Tez: Digital comics platform Comixology just added a major goodie for all you Osamu Tezuka fans, whether vintage or newly minted. Tezuka titles from both Vertical, Inc.'s catalog and Dark Horse / Digital Manga Publishers are now showing up in the Comixology library. Considering how costly some of these have been, because their physical editions have gone out of print, this is a terrific way to experience one of manga's all-time luminaries. I worry about how some of his artwork or storytelling might seem dated, but then again, I also keep thinking anyone who automatically reacts to something from a previous era by squinting at how funny it looks probably isn't the target audience.
Zeta's got the right stuff: Anime distributor and licensor Right Stuf landed a whopper of a franchise when they set up a long-term deal to license pretty much all of Gundam for the U.S. Their newest addition to that catalog: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, set to drop this coming March. I'm still trying to find the time to watch all of Turn A Gundam, but what I have seen of it so far has been utterly intriguing.
Only in theaters: GKIDS, licensors for many of the Studio Ghibli titles that Disney has elected to not touch, has chosen to do the best possible thing by one of their recent acquisitions in that vein. Only Yesterday, a Ghibli title from 1991 that remained unreleased in the West until now, is hitting theaters in January — New Years' Day, actually! — at New York's IFC Center in an English-language dub. Look for it to hit other theaters by February 26th.
Kiss kiss bang bang: Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (god, I love that title) is one of those properties Japan revisits habitually. Originally a comic novel about a high-school girl who discovers she's inherited leadership of a bottom-shelf yakuza gang, it's since been adapted into a live-action movie — and one of surreal, hallucinatory hilarity; it's a cult classic waiting to happen — a TV series, and now it's being re-adapted all over again for the big screen. All that's missing is an anime version ... something I plan to have a few things to say about eventually. Oh, and this is an ideal property for one of the light-novel publishers out there to pick up on and try to promote to a wider audience, hint hint.
I'm (no longer) on a boat: Longtime fans of the epic's-epic fantasy manga Berserk — are there any other kinds of fan of Berserk save for the longtime kind? — will be pleased to know they're finally off that damn boat. And you thought George R. R. Martin drew things out...